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Will Google Really Pay £3.9 Billion For Groupon?

Is a site offering money-off deals in US cities really worth that much? Welcome to the new bubble, says Clint Boulton

My, how the rumour mill is churning around the alleged Google-Groupon acquisition.

UK readers won’t have met it, but Groupon is a site offering local deals at places in a large number of US and Canadian cities. It also offers what it calls “social shopping”, and rumour has it that Google wants it, to build a revenue stream from location-based services built on Google Maps.

Yesterday I noted how Vator News reckoned Google was offering $2.5 billion (£1.6 bn) for the local deals and social shopping site Groupon.

Now AllThings Digital and The New York Times say the deal has a stunning price tag of between $5 billion and $6 billion (£3.2 bn to £3.9bn).

Is it worth that much?

Stunning is the operative word here because Groupon is valued at about $1 billion. (£640 million). A 5x or 6x premium over the company’s worth is amazing when you consider the site doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment or utility.

I don’t know the revenues for sure though I’ve seen anywhere from $300 to $500 millon (£190m to £320m) a year. Based on those numbers, Google’s premium is even greater.

I subscribed over a week ago, placing myself in Fairfield County, Connecticut. I get one to two e-mails daily announcing deals, anything from discounts on seafood from restaurants to deals for buy $40 worth of books for $20.

And my God are there a lot of deals for women’s clothing! I’m hiding Groupon from my wife though I may actually use the deals for Christmas shopping this year.

I can share those deals with friends on Facebook, Twitter or e-mail and enjoy additional savings for recommending people.

But that’s about it. I can’t call anyone, network with friends or search for Web content. So Groupon, while cool, is fairly one dimensional, which makes a $5 or $6 billion price tag seem crazy to me.

Data bolsters local search

Welcome to the new bubble, I guess. Google can use the e-commerce data to bolster its local search and ad assets and put a stake in the ground for owning a socially-oriented hot property.

Last I checked, Google had $33 billion (£21bn)  in the bank or so so it’s not like its cash pile will be cleaned out. But I would have liked them to acquire more $1 billion companies, or gone for the gusto in grabbing Twitter.

In paying such a premium what Google may be doing here is trying to ensure they don’t miss Groupon, the way they blew the Yelp deal this time last year (Google was reported to be offering half a billion dollars for local search company Yelp in December).

Google paid $3.1 billion (£2bn)  for DoubleClick and it is finally seeing the fruits of that deal, racking up $2.5 billion (£1.6bn) a year in display ads.

Google shelled our $1.65 billion (£1bn)  for YouTube in 2007, a deal I believe will ultimately prove its best ever. It, too, is padding Google’s display ads. YouTube Leanback on Google TV can be an ad powerhouse because it paves the way for traditional television commercials.

I’ll be very interested to see what Groupon can do for Google if it consummates the deal. Jeff Molander, who co-founded Performics Inc., which was acquired by DoubleClick in 2004 and Google in 2007 before Google sold it off in 2009, said:

“Groupon is today’s — minus the entrepreneurial sensibility. burned through the restaurant market with its similar “buy a $25 gift certificate for $3″ model. But they stopped when small businesses owners it served figured out the simple math. They looked at the profitability of customers. There wasn’t enough to sustain participation with’s model.”

Readers, what do you think of a Google-Groupon deal?